Out Of My League
This post was supposed to begin with a picture taken on a walk yesterday of a business I passed—"Hill Robinson, Yacht Management Consultants." Unfortunately the picture didn't come out very well, so I axed it.
We walked to the Picasso Museum in Antibes, which is near the waterfront, and all along the way were yacht-related businesses—yacht builders, yacht decorators, yacht designers, and so on. It's scarcely surprising that when you get to the waterfront the only thing you can see is boats of various descriptions. You really can't even see the water until you get sufficiently above ground level to see over them. Which, happily, you can do at the Picasso Museum, because the view from the terrace was just about the best part of the museum.
Somehow, I always thought I liked Picasso, but I guess I didn't, really. I found most of the pictures in the museum uncompelling. To be fair, though, about 2/3 of the museum was closed off, for reasons I don't know, and so maybe most of the good stuff was missing. Fortunately they pared down the entry price to reflect the reduced exhibitions. The photo above is a view from the terrace.
As you can see, the sea is stunningly blue. The terrace itself is very attractive, being covered with nice stonework and some (at least relatively) attractive statuary. I'll put in another photo at the end of the post. But first, here is a photo that you must study carefully:
The Terrible Towel that forms the backdrop is tastefully draped over the TV in the apartment, as we don't use it. (The TV that is, but naturally it would be unacceptable to use the Terrible Towel either. I hid it the first night we arrived when I discovered that there were no towels in the apartment, as I was afraid that temptation would overcome Tony's better nature when he wanted to take a shower the next morning...)
The subject of the photo is the jar of confiture that we had just finished. It is wild blueberry jam, or what the British call bilberries. Tony picked it up shortly after we arrived, although I'm not sure where, unless the boulangerie where he bought the bread also has a few jars of confiture for sale. It was very nice, but it has a quality that I had not appreciated until Tony pointed out the small print on the label: "Cuits à feu nu dans des chaudrons en cuivre." For those of you not up on your French, that means "Cooked over an open fire in copper cauldrons."
I thought I was out of my league with the yachts, but this takes the gateau, I suppose you could say. Cooking your jam outdoors, over a campfire, in a copper cauldron? Have you priced copper cauldrons lately? Let's just say that it would set you back a pretty penny, although admittedly nothing like even an entry-level yacht.
It was very nice. But I think I'll leave the open-fire cookery to the fabricators of traditional Provençal delights such as this jam. I'm just trying to cook within the somewhat meagre confines of my apartment kitchen. It is not overly lavishly furnished with kitchen comforts.
There is a large pot with a lid, suitable for boiling pasta, 2 saucepans, a largish and a small, with a universal lid (so you can only cover one pot at a time,) and a frying pan. I think that perhaps the lid from the pasta pot would fit it, but I don't know, as I haven't tried. (You can't use two large pots at the same time anyhow, as the burners are too close together for that.) There are two longish Pyrex casserole dishes. This encompasses the cooking vessels. As to utensils, there are two knives, a large one and a paring knife. Both are dull. There is a wooden stirrer, a metal whisk, a potato peeler, a ladle, and a metal pancake turner. Naturally there is a set of metal cutlery, so the forks and spoons can also be called into service. In addition I have two sharp knives that I brought with me, a large one and a paring knife, and two silicone bowl scrapers that Sarah gave me for Christmas.
So the other day I decided to try making Iles Flotantes. I separated 3 eggs, put the yolks in the refrigerator for making the custard later, and sat down with my bowl of egg whites, the whisk, and a good book. I've been reading the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell on the Kindle app on my phone, and somehow a 19th century British novel seemed an appropriate accompaniment to the rather Mrs. Beetonish method of meringue-making.
I whisked away, and although it did take quite a while to get the whites to a suitably beaten stage it didn't take as long as I feared. Naturally I had added both vanilla sugar (as I don't have the extract) and regular sugar to the egg whites when they began to stiffen up. I brought a pan of milk to the simmer stage and poached clumps of meringue. After they were done I put them into one of the pyrex dishes while I made custard with the hot milk, the egg yolks, and more sugar and vanilla sugar. (I also added a pinch of fleur de sel.) I poured the finished custard over the "iles" and chilled it in the refrigerator.
After dinner I divided the islands into bowls and poured the custard over them. I then caramelized some sugar and stirred a bit of cream into it which I drizzled over the "iles." (In hindsight, I should have stirred more cream into the sugar, because when it hit the cold custard it hardened into toffee. It tasted nice, though—it just stuck rather firmly to one's teeth.)
Finally, here is the other photo from the Picasso museum terrace, showing, mostly, a rather amusing sculpure on it: